This I Believe

Sloss, Hattie Hecht


  • Hattie Hecht Sloss, founder of the Council of Jewish Women (U.S.). San Francisco Section, describes her belief via the format of poetry, quoting Coolridge, James Henry Leigh Hunt, the Old and New Testaments, Tennyson, and several poems by Browning.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Hattie Hecht Sloss is a poet. Her life has been steeped in music and the music of words. From the earliest days of radio, she has been heard in San Francisco on two programs: one dealing with poetry, the other with symphonic music. She has been married for 54 years to former State Supreme Court Justice Marcus C. Sloss. She was the founder of the San Francisco Council of Jewish Women, over 50 years ago. She is literary director of the San Francisco Browning Society. Here now is Mrs. Sloss.
Because to me, poetry expresses facts, ideas, and emotions in a style more concentrated, imaginative, and powerful than that of ordinary speech, I decided to make my confession of faith in that medium. I agree with Samuel Coolridge, who
so aptly said, “Prose—words in their best order. Poetry—the best words in their best order.” The sentiments expressed in the following quotations have guided my approach to life, helped me in my decisions and difficulties, and are my philosophy. They give me courage and inspiration in all times of stress and are my constant help and solace. These excerpts are not chosen at random and come from sources with which life has made me most familiar.
First, from the Old Testament. For as a Jewess, my religious training started in the home with a close study of this great gift by the Jews to the civilization of the world. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” “Come now and let us reason together.” “Man doth not live by bread alone.” “Cleanse thou me from secret faults.”
The New Testament has also contributed much to my outlook. For example: “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul.” “The truth shall make you free.” “The things which are seen are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal.”
Next to the Bible, Shakespeare’s name, like Abou Ben Adhem’s, leads all the rest. And I include two lines from Hamlet, which are of almost daily value to me. “The readiness is all, and there is a divinity that shapes our ends.”
My favorite poet is Robert Browning, and his philosophy has been of vital influence to me and one of my greatest sources of comfort. Through the following lines, from several of his poems, he has become my guide, philosopher, and friend.
“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, for what’s a heaven for.
God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.
I show you doubt to prove that faith exists.
The more of doubt, the stronger faith, I say, if faith o'er comes doubt.
When the fight begins within himself, a man’s worth something.
Then welcome each rebuff that turns earth’s smoothness rough.
Each string that bids, nor sit, nor stand, but go.
Be our joys three parts pain, strive and hold cheap the strain.
Learn nor account the pang.
Dare, never grudge the throw.
What I aspire to be and was not, comforts me.
There shall never be one lost good.
What will shall live as before.
The evil is null, is naught, is silence implying sound.
What was good shall be good, with for evil, so much good the more.
On the earth, the broken arcs in the heaven make perfect round.
It’s wiser being good than bad.
It’s safer being meek than fierce.
It’s fitter being sane than mad.
My own hope is the sun shall pierce the thickest cloud earth ever stretched.
That after last returns the first.
Though a wide compass round be fetched, that what began best can't end worst.
Nor what God blessed once, prove accursed.”
My last quotation, from another Victorian poet, Alfred Tennyson, is this: “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”
That was Hattie Hecht Sloss, who finds her faith through poetry.